Auntie Oprah, Sisi Serena
To Nigerian ladies of an excitable disposition, I have a simple question: Did Oprah Winfrey wire you some money following the release of her Vogue cover, or is she inviting you on her next holiday? To tell you the truth, when Nigerian women of various age groups communally lost their ‘shh’ on social media with back to back posts of the media mogul’s face on the cover of UK Vogue, I was a bit confused.
There is of course nothing wrong with posting on your personal postcode on cyberspace the image of a celebrity you admire or have a crush on. After all wasn’t this the sole reason #mancrushmonday and #womancrushwednesday were invented? This, and of course giving your crush a chance to slide into your DM should they be one of us mere mortals and should the admiration be mutual.
The Oprah-worship was off the scale hysteria for some. So much so that you would be forgiven for thinking Oprah was their first cousin twice removed. The kind of hysteria that can only be justified if Super Eagles won the World Cup, or if one day you went to bed in Nigeria and woke up to find yourself in Wakanda, or Idris Elba asked you on a secret date to Richard Branson’s private island, or scratch that, you won the lottery and bought yourself a private island!
This incidentally is the same mass hysteria most Nigerians girls are prone to experiencing anytime Serena wins a grand slam (which is only every other month) or Beyonce releases new music, or announces a world tour or simply uploads family photos from yet another luxury getaway. Mrs Carter shakes her booty and we turn to putty. I don’t think we’re ready for this jelly.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating black female excellence, especially when no one else seems to do. Yes, of course we must celebrate Oprah on the cover of the once lily-white publication that is Vogue UK as much as we should celebrate Edward Enninful masterfully reviving the fashion bible to embrace diversity. Yes, of course, we must celebrate Serena when there a thousands of haters – led by the bitterest of them all, Maria Sharapova – ready to leap at the opportunity to Serena-bash at the sight of whatever they feel to be a chip in her armour.
Of course, we should celebrate new music from pop’s new royalty, King and Queen Carter.Yes of course, we should celebrate how Meghan Markle single-handedly is making the British royalty cool again.After all, in Issa Rae’s famous words, “I’m rooting for everybody black” which she brazenly announced at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.
However, is there any cause for mass hysteria?
Last time I checked Oprah Winfrey wasn’t my aunty and Beyonce wasn’t paying my bills so why such teenage-like adulation and hero-worship?
Such frenzy seems even more ludicrous when we are so harsh on our indigenous celebrities when international stars can do no wrong. It was only weeks ago the camps were well and truly split – excuse the pun – over Tiwa’s ripped denim shorts. In the blue corner we had those who defended the star and said, “If it is good enough for Beyonce, it is good enough for our Queen of Afrobeats”. In the red corner were those who tutted, huffed and puffed. Because, “Which kind mother shows her bum to the world?”, “She is forgetting her African culture.” The same people who critise Tiwa so savagely are often the same ones going gaga over the sight of Beyonce’s left bum cheek at Coachella!
Likewise for any Nigerian media mogul of Oprah’s generation, the inclination to find fault is ever-present. How many older celebrities do you see on the red carpet pictures from events on Nigerian gossip blogs, with anonymous comments under which read, “Aunty Such and Such, you’ve added weight o! You’re not looking fine again” or “Leave her jo! At her age she is still single. Is it her millions she go hug at night?”
As for the private lives of the stars, the same dichotomy applies. When Beyonce was at the verge of a divorce a few years ago, many of us were shedding tears, owning her pain as theirs, wishing to drop kick Jay Z Solange style. Pray tell, did we feel the same pain over the break down of Toke Makinwa’s marriage. I doubt. In fact, the running commentary I remember mostly was, “Shebi this is what happens when you leave your husband unattended to show face on every red carpet?”
Can we perhaps curb our endless adulation of international stars or even just temper it with commensurate compassion for our own? And please, next time you want to post a picture of Aunty Oprah and gush about her greatness, ask yourself: Has she made a difference to your life by appearing on a magazine cover or the red carpet? Is she your aunty? Your fairy godmother? Is she paying your bills? If the answer to any or all of the above is no, remind yourself it is just as fine to enjoy her greatness in private. You can always set her cover as your mobile screen saver.